Gene Variants Linked to Cannabis Use Disorder Uncovered by Scientists

Scientists have identified specific gene variants associated with the risk of developing cannabis use disorder, shedding light on the biological factors behind this condition.

Scientists have made a breakthrough in understanding the genetic factors that contribute to cannabis use disorder. This disorder, characterized by tolerance to cannabis and difficulty cutting back despite negative consequences, has been a subject of concern in the field of mental health. By analyzing the genomes of over 1 million individuals, researchers have identified key genetic hotspots associated with cannabis use disorder. The findings, published in the journal Nature Genetics, offer valuable insights into the biological mechanisms underlying this condition.

Genetic Hotspots and Neuronal Signaling:

The study drew data from the Million Veterans Program, a large-scale initiative that collects genetic and medical information from U.S. veterans, as well as other extensive datasets. The analysis included individuals of various ancestries, such as European, African, East Asian, and mixed ancestries. Researchers discovered 22 relevant genetic hotspots in Europeans, two in Africans and East Asians, and one in individuals with mixed ancestries. These hotspots were often located near genes associated with neurons, the cells of the nervous system responsible for transmitting electrical and chemical messages. Notably, a gene coding for a dopamine receptor, crucial to the brain’s reward system and addiction, was found to be linked to cannabis use disorder.

Cannabinoid Receptors and Downstream Effects:

Interestingly, the study did not find direct associations between genetic variants related to cannabinoid receptors, which are the receptors targeted by cannabis compounds, and cannabis use disorder. Instead, the identified genetic variations appeared to be downstream effects of the interaction between cannabis ingredients and brain receptors. This suggests that other neuronal responses to cannabis contribute to the development of the disorder. The researchers emphasize the need for larger datasets to explore further genetic variants associated with cannabinoid receptors.

Links to Other Disorders and Behaviors:

The study also revealed connections between cannabis use disorder and smoking cigarettes, various forms of substance dependence, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Comparing the genetic patterns of cannabis use disorder and general cannabis use, the researchers found distinct differences. While both were linked to schizophrenia, the association was stronger in cannabis use disorder. The team plans to conduct further research to explore the relationship between cannabis use disorder and schizophrenia.

Potential Link to Lung Cancer:

Intriguingly, the study uncovered a potential genetic link between cannabis use disorder and lung cancer. Although smoking cannabis contains combustion products that could contribute to lung cancer, the researchers acknowledge the need for focused studies to fully understand this relationship. It is worth noting that cannabis use disorder was also associated with cigarette smoking, a known cause of lung cancer. The researchers aim to investigate whether the observed link with lung cancer is independent of cigarette smoking.


The discovery of gene variants associated with cannabis use disorder provides valuable insights into the biological underpinnings of this condition. By identifying specific genetic hotspots and their associations with neuronal signaling, researchers have shed light on the complex mechanisms involved in the development of cannabis use disorder. The study’s findings also highlight the importance of diversifying genomic research to include populations of non-European ancestry. The links between cannabis use disorder and other disorders and behaviors, such as smoking cigarettes and PTSD, further emphasize the need for a comprehensive understanding of this condition. Future research will focus on unraveling the relationship between cannabis use disorder, schizophrenia, and lung cancer, ultimately contributing to more effective prevention and treatment strategies.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *